The Premier League table makes comfortable reading for Chelsea fans right now. The Blues have 37 points from 15 games, a three-point cushion at the top from Arsenal and have dropped points in just three games.
But their fantastic form, which saw them go nine games unbeaten with a 1-0 win over West Brom in December, didn’t look likely three months ago.
Okay, so The Blues won their first three games against West Ham, Watford and Burnley, but apart from the 3-0 rout of The Clarets they were not comfortable wins. A draw with Swansea and defeats to Liverpool and Arsenal sparked rumours of manager Antonio Conte facing the sack. How strange that now seems. Here’s a close-up look at the stars of Chelsea’s season and why you’d have to be a brave person not to back them for the title next May.
Is there a finer forward in Europe than Diego Costa right now? He scored the late winners in August against West Ham and Watford and salvaged a point in that 2-2 draw at Swansea.
In Conte’s high-pressure game at Hull, which followed defeats to Arsenal and Liverpool, he looked superb in Chelsea’s new-look 3-4-3 formation and sealed the 2-0 win. He leads the line like a lion and with his energy now focused on hitting the net, rather than the opposition, he’s taken his goal tally to 15 in 12 Premier League games.
There’s been no sign of a yellow card since September too and Costa has become a true team player to add to his ruthless streak in front of the posts. An overall record of 44 league goals in 69 games is stunning.
Chelsea fans may have forgotten who this guy was before the start of the season, let along what position he played, after lone spells at Liverpool, Stoke and West Ham. Well, Conte must have seen something in Moses in training and when he switched the team to 3-4-3 at Hull in October, the attacker became Conte’s first-choice right wing-back.
The Nigerian has the speed and skill to excel in that position as has been one of Chelsea’s key men this season. The goals are flowing too, against Burnley, Leicester and Tottenham, and along with Marcos Alonso on the left he has given the 2015 champions a real platform to keep solid at the back but look threatening on the counter.
Not many players had a more disappointing 2015-16 season than Eden Hazard, who scored just four league goals and looked nothing like the title winner and PFA Player of the Year from 12 months earlier. Thankfully, this season he’s back to his brilliant best – running games as part of Chelsea’s attacking trio alongside Costa and Pedro and netting eight times. Whether he’s playing centrally and receiving the ball out wide, the Belgian wizard will run at defenders or spot a cheeky pass to slip in a teammate.
Unlike Mourinho last season, Conte has been able to get the best out of the 25-year-old and if he stays at this level The Blues will take some beating in the title race.
Spending £30 million to prise Kante from champions Leicester in the summer was a complete no brainer for Chelsea. Sitting in the centre alongside Nemanja Matic, the all-action midfielder makes timely tackles and keeps The Blues ticking with his vision and energy.
He’s made the most interceptions at Stamford Bridge and if Kante can chip in with a few more goals, to add to his solo strike against Man United, he’ll become another Chelsea legend in the ilk of Claude Makelele. A second winner’s medal could be heading his way in 2017.